There are so many issues in our world these days. So many, in fact, I had a hard time deciding what to tackle for this column. So, in 2016, what does one do when confused about something and needing a little 21st Century guidance? Well, Google, of course!
I searched for the top political topics that people are “googling” to see which are, at this time, most important to people during this presidential election year.
Here are the top 10 topics: Immigration, gun control, education, taxes, economy, same-sex marriage, foreign policy, refugees, climate change and health care.
I took those 10 topics and basically cut them into 10 pieces of paper, folded the pieces, then drew one out, promising myself I would write about whichever came out, even if it wasn’t what I truly wanted to write about. So, true to my promise to myself, I drew and the topic that came out was refugees. Not what I wanted, but it is one of the hottest topics around, so here goes my take.
First, let’s look at the difference between an immigrant and a refugee. Many believe the terms are interchangeable or one and the same. But that is an incorrect assumption.
Immigrants are people who usually legally come into the country to join family members that are already here or they are moving here to seek better economic opportunities—a better life, the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Refugees, on the other hand, enter the country under a special immigration status because they were forced to leave their home countries due to political persecutions, religious/ethnic intolerance, environmental disasters or war. For a true refugee to enter the United States, the process of entry approval, if followed as planned, should take 18 months or longer and involve multiple screenings and background checks through multiple agencies.
Refugees have come to the United States throughout its history. I remember, as a state employee many years ago, working with a family that were political refugees from a region of the former Soviet Union. I was able to get them limited help while they sought employment right here in Enterprise. Good people, doctors, in fact, but they could not be doctors here so they were grateful for the employment they could get. It was interesting working within “special guidelines” for political refugees. I was grateful for the experience and happy to help.
The refugee situation we hear most about these days is the Syrian refugee crisis.
In March 2011 Syrian rebels rose up against the Syrian government and its president, Bashar Al-Assad. The uprising spiraled into a civil war that continues. Syrians began leaving their home country to escape the rule of Assad, even before the uprising, and continue to leave by the hundreds of thousands. According to worldvision.org, 1.9 million Syrian refugees are living in Turkey, the war-torn country of Iraq hosts some 250,000 Syrians, 630,000 refugees are settled in Jordan, 1.1 million in Lebanon and hundreds of thousands more all over Europe. Less than 2,000 have been resettled in the United States, according to cnn.com that credited the State Department with that information.
With President Barak Obama announcing last fall that he was going to welcome more than 10,000 Syrian refugees into the U.S. between October 2015 and October 2016, I think, as citizens, we need to be asking, demanding, to know how our federal government can possibly vet that many refugees properly, let alone refugees from a war-torn country controlled by a dictator and at war with an organization bent on the destruction of America, its allies and any religion other than a violent form of ancient Islam. That organization—The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), aka The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)— is said to be behind atrocities worldwide and its followers hard to track.
According to the United Nations, the Syrian situation is the largest refugee population in the world. Why should we care? Because we are America and we are supposed to care and help and do for others. The pursuit of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, remember? Our ancestors were not Americans, they came from other countries and made America. Is now the time to change the principals on which our country is founded? I think not. But, should we blindly allow people into this country, without proper vetting? Absolutely not!
Unfortunately, even though more than half the states in our country, including Alabama, have said no to settling Syrian refugees, the plenary power of the 1980 Refugee Act allows the federal government to place refugees anywhere in the country it so chooses.
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley filed suit against the U.S. Government in early January claiming the 1980 Act was being violated because states were not being regularly consulted on the placement of refugees. Texas sued the federal government in December over the issue.
The fact is, refugees do have to meet a lot of standards to get into this country, moreso than someone on a simple visitor visa. We don’t have boatloads of refugees landing on our shores in little boats, coming in on foot or by air. That’s a lot different than in the European Union where their system allows anyone to pass between most of the countries in the EU without having to show a passport, making it easy for anyone to get into those countries without a background check.
The problem I have with all of this is that I do not understand how we can allow so many refugees into our country, from a hostile country, without proper vetting and how can they be properly vetted if they were never really documented and kept up with in their home country to begin with?
In October, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey told Congress that his agency is unable to vet the Syrians. He said, “If someone has never made a ripple in the pond in Syria in a way that would get their identity—or their interests—reflected in our database, we can query our database until the cows come home, but there will be nothing to show up because we have no record of them.”
That’s scary, folks.
Remember, officials said that neither Syed Farook nor his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were on anyone’s watch lists and they killed 14 people and wounded 21 others in an attack in San Bernadino, CA on Dec. 2, 2015. Farook grew up in this country, but he went to the Middle East and brought back Malik as his bride. Apparently, they had been planning the attack for years and pledged allegiance to ISIS/ISIL.
So, in a nutshell, yes, let’s be America and help, BUT, make sure we are not opening a Pandora’s box that can’t be closed. Sure, we might help thousands upon thousands of children, women, and men who mean us absolutely no harm. I, myself, as a Christian, believe that is what we should do, help. However, until the government and its support organizations can figure out how to do that without inviting even more danger into this country and without further deepening a national debt that is weakening the United States more and more each day, then we should not allow them in.
Help them where they are.
Jan Murray is a staff writer for The Southeast Sun and Daleville Sun-Courier. The opinions of this writer are her own and not the opinion of the paper. She can be reached at (334) 393-2969 or by email at email@example.com.